Fifth Environment Assembly to focus on nature

Source: press release, 6 March 2020

Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn (photo: Snorre Tønset/KLD)
Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn (photo: Snorre Tønset/KLD)

With less than a year before the world meets for the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, the UN’s highest-level environmental forum, “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” has been announced as the theme.

The fifth session will take place from 22-26 February 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya. It will follow the critical UN Ocean Conference in June 2020, the UN Biodiversity Conference in October 2020 – where countries will meet to make decisions on the future of protecting biodiversity, as well as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November 2020 at which governments will be expected to deliver transformational and ambitious changes needed to effectively address the climate crisis.

Also this week, Sveinung Rotevatn, Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, was duly elected as the President of the UN Environment Assembly.

“Nature is the foundation for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature is the solution we in many ways take for granted, but that we cannot afford to lose. Building on the ‘super year for nature’ and the strong knowledge base on the critical status for nature, I hope we, in one year, can agree on significant opportunities and changes that need to happen to turn the trend for nature and the Sustainable Development Goals,” says Minister Rotevatn.

At a time when the world faces a looming crisis because of climate change, the role of nature in protecting the planet is becoming more apparent. A 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) revealed that across the globe most nature has now been significantly altered by multiple human drivers, with the great majority of ecosystems and the biodiversity they sustain showing rapid decline.

“Humanity is an inextricable part of the rich tapestry of life that makes up our world’s biological diversity. All human civilizations have been and continue to be built on the use of wild and cultivated species of flora and fauna, from the food we eat to the air we breathe,” says UN Secretary-General António Guterres this week in a message for World Wildlife Day 2020.

“However, it seems that humanity has forgotten just how much we need nature for our survival and well-being. As our population and our needs continue to grow, we keep exploiting natural resources – including wild plants and animals and their habitats – in an unsustainable manner,” he adds.

More than 4,700 delegates, including environment ministers, scientists, academics, business leaders and civil society representatives, met in Nairobi in 2019 for the fourth UN Environment Assembly; Member states adopted 23 different resolutions related to plastic pollution, sustainable development, reducing emissions and more. The fifth session will be a critical moment to take stock of the latest developments in environmental policy and action and to resolve to make real transformation shifts to address the climate crisis.

“With more nature, we will live better lives. I look forward to a dialogue with governments and all stakeholders in the year to come about the transformative changes that need to happen to protect and restore biodiversity and the wide range of benefits we all depend on from nature. Let’s get started,” adds Minister Rotevatn.